A CIRCUS boss whose Big Top arrived in Oxford this week does not believe the public is against wild animals performing in the travelling shows.

Ministers have indicated they would take steps to ban animals such as lions and tigers performing, after 94 per cent of people who took part in a public consultation backed a ban.

Animal Welfare Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said the clear view emerging from the Government’s consultation was that keeping wild animals to perform in travelling circuses was no longer acceptable.

He added: “I am minded to pursue a ban on the use of these animals in circuses.”

However, Martin Burton, who runs Zippo’s Circus which is in South Park until Tuesday, does not believe it truly reflects how the public feels.

Mr Burton, whose own show does not include wild animals, has called for a “full and proper analysis” of the consultation.

He was among the first to develop an industry code of conduct for animal welfare in circuses.

He said: “All our animals are very well cared for. While I would not vote for an outright ban on wild animals in circus, providing of course that the animal husbandry is excellent, I have never chosen to include wild animals in my circus.

“This is for a number of reasons including personal choice, the fit with the Zippo’s brand and nature of our show, logistics, and the very urban sites we play in.

“I am a passionate supporter of domestic animals in circus – their performances are central to family circuses, give joy to thousands of our visitors every year, and are consistently voted by our guests as the top acts in the show.

“I do not believe the apparent weight of public opinion against wild animals in circus is a true indicator of public feeling – we have seen the aftermath of the Fox-Hunting Bill.

“It will have been heavily skewed by animal welfare and rights organisations emailing in from around the world.

“I should like to see a full and proper analysis of the public responses to this consultation when it becomes available.”

Mr Burton said Zippo’s featured palomino and falabella horses, and birds, but no wild animals.

Jane Alexander, from Headington, Oxford, dressed as a clown to protest against the use of any animals at circuses. She said: “I am sure the circus people love and care for their animals as well as anyone could, in the conditions they have, but these animals are not able to be themselves and live as they would choose.

“I think it would be much better if animals were not involved in circuses at all and I would be pleased if there was a nationwide ban.”

Mr Burton has participated in every Government debate on the use of animals in circus, and has been a consultant on Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs panels for nearly 20 years.

He has always called for the full and proper regulation of circuses, including inspections by Defra or other independent bodies.

The British Veterinary Association said it was delighted with the news that the Government was responding to the “overwhelming” call for a ban on wild animals.

Meanwhile, the RSPCA’s Government relations manager Claire Robinson said the animal welfare charity was delighted ministers were heading towards a ban.